July 30, 2009

Disney Sobre Hielo

That's what Disney On Ice is called down here.

My daughter and I went to see the show last weekend. She loved it, especially Ariel and Tinkerbell.

This was Mundo de Fantasia with the headliners: Cars, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Tinkerbell. Now I'm not sure why Tinkerbell - who had the entire second half - couldn't have her own show, but my guess is that Cars, and perhaps the Lion King, help to bring in little boys too.

Folks at Disney and Feld Entertainment are pretty smart.

There was some solid skating but there was a whole lot more of "skate-acting" where they furiously wave their arms around while mouthing the words. I give them bonus points though since they had to learn the recording in Spanish. And then there was some non-skating by Lightening McQueen, Sally, Mator and the rest of Radiator Springs. They were full-size cars just driving around on the ice.

But I shouldn't be the one giving the critique ... like I said, my daughter loved it - and that's who Feld really cares about.

I was more impressed when I saw something called Princess Wishes or Princess Classics or More Princesses Than You Can Count a few years ago. Indeed there were about nine gals each taking a solo or pair number. You know when they include Mulan and Pocahontas they are really going for it.

What was amazing to me was to imagine a show where they were more principal girls than chorus girls. I would love to have been a fly on the wall of that backstage. How can there be nine divas all at once? Well, clearly there must be some pecking order I wasn't aware of ... that Snow White, she's so over-the-hill now, she sure was a great Cinderella back in her prime.

But that show had the best overall skating of any Disney show I've seen and I think I know why ... competition with your peers. Everyday. Right there on the ice next to you.

July 28, 2009

Rules of the Game

With my recent posting of the first ice show I did, I got to thinking about how I even survived it.

So I need to give a big shout out to Laurie Cole Benson, who had starred with Holiday On Ice for nine years and was known to be the best Alice in Wonderland to lace up a pair of skates. She sat me down before I left for rehearsals and told me the rules of the game. Of course, these were the unwritten rules in addition to the official ones, and if I hadn't have known them, I don't think I would have lasted a week.

Were they going to fire you? They just hired you didn't they?

Ah yes, while I was given a part in the chorus, you should know it didn't cost Holiday On Ice much upfront. All of the skaters had to pay for their own airfare to Switzerland and their hotel once they got there. Holiday On Ice hadn't invested much in me yet.

In other words, anyone was expendible, especially the newbies.

They reimbursed me the equivalent of train fare from Paris - my new home base - to Bern, Switzerland, which in reality, barely covered my cab fare from the airport. That's it.

Now, not all ice shows make you pay yourself to get there! But since there were hundreds of skaters from Eastern Europe who would have LOVED the job, I was in no position to make demands.

Okay, so here were the rules - which are probably still good guidelines if you're new and joining a show:

*Don't get caught looking at your watch or the clock
*Don't cross you arms and look bored
*If you're not in the number being rehearsed, keep watching it
*Don't stand if you can mark the steps
*Don't sit if you can stand
*Don't complain about how long your feet have been in skates

and the most important

*Don't ever think you're too good for the chorus

Thanks again Laurie!

July 25, 2009

This Day Always Makes Me Sad

As I mentioned in a post at the beginning of June, I'm a big fan of the Tour de France ... and as of today the race is virtually over. There is tomorrow's race into Paris, but they usually don't challenge the standings on the last day.

So symbolically, my summer is over. Ah, sigh.

The Tour is 3 weeks long and so when I settle in to 3+ hours of riders racing through the beautiful countryside every night for most of July, it feels like a big indulgent summertime chill-out.

By the way, wouldn't that be a great name for a band?

Soooo, anyway, what does this have to do with skating? I'm getting there, I'm getting there. Thanks for asking.

I mentioned in June that Lance was a longshot for the Tour and I was right - and wrong. He rode an incredible Tour for being out of competition for three years. He came back to get on the podium in 3rd place and by all accounts, happy to be there. Would Michelle be happy to just get back on the podium? Would Sasha? Probably not.

To me, Lance's ride felt more like Katrina Witt's return. She was lucky to even qualify to get back into the 19994 Lillihamer Olympics. Yet, she did a program that was harder than the one she won with in Calgary in 1988. I had a lot more respect for her at that point because she dedicated her long program to the people of Sarajevo, who had suffered in a war, and where Katarina had won her first Olympic medal. It was much like what Lance did for raising awareness for cancer this year.

Luckily for Lance, he doesn't have to wait four years for the next ride. I predict he'll race next year with his sights set higher than third.

July 21, 2009

Trip Down Skating Lane

A friend posted some videos on Facebook yesterday of the show we did waaaaaaaaaaay back in 1983.

Most of the shows I did I have on some crummy video tape that's rotting away in storage. Still, I do have them and that's how I remember those shows.

But not this one. Never had it on video - weren't many video cameras around in 1983 - and thus, I forgot the show.

So these clips on Facebook, which were actually from 1988, are the same costumes, mostly the same choreography, and some of the same people. Can you imagine doing the same show, night after night, for five years? Those folks deserve some kind of medal right there, like the Cal Ripkin Award for Enduring Annoying Show Music.

Hearing the music and seeing the choreography I hadn't done in 26 years was a bit jarring. That's a long time, but somewhere in a tiny, tiny spot of my brain that's been kicking back a while woke up and said "Hey, I think I remember those steps. I bet I can still do that number."

So I ask you, have you experienced the same? When a song comes on that you haven't heard in a decade or so - you remember where you were the last time you heard it, right?

Kind of cool, I think.

July 16, 2009

The *5 **Most Thrilling Show Skating Performances

Since Axels, Loops, and Spins created his own - and IMHO better - list than Sports Illustrated's list, I decided to come up with a list just for the show skaters.

I realize a lot of you won't know these names, but my fellow show skaters will and I would love to hear their opinions.

* I couldn't narrow it down, so you get a bonus performance

** The most, refers to my years of skating or getting comp tickets to other shows. Both of those stopped around 1997, so the list of skaters ranges from 1983 - 1997. Sorry Craig Heath.

6. Stephanie Anderson, Holiday On Ice, 1983: Perhaps I'm biased on this one, because I sat next to her in the dressing room all the time, but I have not seen many show numbers that open in such a thrilling way. (Your spotlight guys have to be awake and on the ball though). The number started with music but no lights and Stephanie was busy doing backcrossovers across the enire sheet of ice in the dark to wind up into a double lutz (1983 remember) "Boitano"-style. This is the point when the lights would come on in the middle of her jump to the big crescendo in the music. She was a great skater.

5. Paul Guerrero, Chris Nolan, and Darin Hosier, Atami, Japan, 1990-91: Okay, I know this is three skaters and by "thrilling" you would think of individuality. But these three guys skated the same two solos with each bringing a unique style so clear and crisp, it was fun to see the numbers anew each time. (Kind of like getting to see all three versions of Billy Elliot on Broadway.)

4. Catarina Lindgren, Ice Capades: She skated as the white "queen" in one of Capade's best themes ever, but I remember her Marilyn Monroe number where she did the most amazing fan kicks stepping between the legs of each of her (chorus) boys.

3. Kirk Wyse, Ice Capades: Although he is perhaps best known for his spot-on Charlie Chaplin impersonation, complete with dog, Scrapette, I loved his comedy number that started out with two full minutes or so of serious skating. Then suddenly he missed a skid stop and landed in audience. Horrifying. But he went right back to the number. You weren't sure if a) he was okay and b) that was planned until he narrowly missed one of the overhead lights crashing down on the ice. Then you knew it was comedy and were eager to see what came next. It was nice to watch someone crash and burn on the ice - safe in knowing it was comedy - because today it means there has been a horrific accident.

2. Cindy Stuart: Anything she did. Simply amazing, but I think I liked her solo to Madonna's version of "Fever". I saw this on a grainy, poor-quality video tape, but was still taken away. It's her posture and choreography that does it for me. My favorite female show skater of all. You can catch a performance, here.

1. The late, great Robert Wagonhoffer: like Cindy, anything he did. His body could bend and twist like no other and I still haven't seen anyone else do his signature move - the Wagonhoffer side split, a cartwheel arabian, as one called it. I loved his performance in "Gershwin On Ice", but he can be seen all over You Tube, like this performance.

So there's a list. I know these aren't household names, but it shows that it isn't only Olympians that can "thrill".

July 9, 2009

Nicole Bobek ... My Two Cents

I met her twice at a friend's apartment, but I can only speculate so much. She was a close friend of my good friend and the last time my good friend and I had dinner I asked how Nicole was doing.

He said he was worried. She was partying too much. Someone trustworthy needed to watch her money.

When I emailed him yesterday he wrote back saying he was relieved the headline wasn't worse. So am I.

Maybe this is the wake-up call she needs. Although ten years in jail? That's going to be devastating.

What comes to my mind as to how this happened? She was rich and young and retired from the sport. That's a bad combination. She didn't have any new goals and these elite athletes are all about goals and challenges.

Another thing my friend mentioned is to remember that Nicole has a kind heart. And I agree.

When I first met her at my friend's apartment I was star-struck, as always in the presence of great skaters, and I had my six-month daughter and husband with me. Nicole asked me, unprompted, to play with the baby. Was I going to say no? She wasn't the picture of a maternal figure - long nails and an outfit for nightclubbing, but at the same time she was so gentle and good with my child. Not a skating primadonna. The fact that she hung out with the chorus so much during her professional shows confirms that. She is a kind soul. It wasn't all about her.

So, I truly hope that she'll be okay. No matter what, I'll always remember her in a good light.

July 6, 2009

Required Reading

Last week Axels, Loops, and Spins recommended reading the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Rulebook.

That's dedication to the sport, I've got to say!

I would like to recommend another book that I think any figure skating fan needs to read. And now it's out in paperback! It's called...

Frozen in Time: The Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team by Nikki Nichols

An excellent read. It was first released four years ago, but the story is timeless. It's an important piece of figure skating history and I warn you, you'll need tissues for the end. But any hardcore figure skating fan needs to read this.

To get the book on Amazon, click here.

For a great review of the book, click here.

July 2, 2009

Another Announcement - Virtual Skateoff

Oh, we showed our sense of humor all right ... too bad nobody filmed the day I fell off the ten-foot tall staircase or the time my friend missed her hockey stop and landed in the audience. That would win the "The World's Funniest Skating Video" contest. But take a look at this ...

ProSkaters is excited to announce the first of its kind in the professional skating world, A VIRTUAL SKATE OFF! In a world dominated by video games, YouTube, and Facebook, ProSkaters brings to you an exclusive competition only to ProSkaters members! For the first time ever ProSkaters will host a competition for the pro skater judged by the pro skater!

As a professional you have had the opportunity to display your humor, unique talent, creativity and all your artistic ability. It¹s time to look through your attics, steamer trucks, and your hard drive and submit your "LIFE'S BEST PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE" via the Internet. With a few simple guidelines established by the ProSkaters board of directors to bring back the magic of competition in a new modern day skating competition.


Join NOW!